Feature Teacher: Sue Richard
Each month we profile a different teacher in the Camden and Rockport public school systems so the community gets to know the strength of the teaching staff in the classrooms. These profiles are compiled, written and submitted by Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Lucas Fischer.
Sue Richard, who is covering seventh-grade Language Arts for a teacher on maternity leave, exclaimed “I love seventh grade,” during my interview with her. Prior to this year, Mrs. Richard worked for the Scholastic Corporation and spent lots of her time in middle schools. She decided that she wanted to go back into teaching to try out the strategies she had learned while working for Scholastic.
It has been a great fit for our district and for Richard. “This one-year position was perfect because I could test the waters,” she smiled. During her year teaching at the Camden-Rockport Middle School, she has felt right at home. “I definitely love middle school,” she chuckled.
Before working for Scholastic, Richard had spent four years teaching elementary school in Topsham. She then moved on to work for Scholastic for four more years before coming to CRMS this past year.
Richard believes that having the ability to write well and express oneself through writing is very important in life. “I don’t think it matters what you do once you leave school; if you are not a good communicator, you are going to suffer in your job,” she said. “Lots of times, writing is the first time that somebody will meet you. If you send an email to somebody that you don’t know, that is your first interaction with that person,” she said. “If you don’t know how to write well, that is the first impression that you are giving.”
Recently, Richard had her students write analytical essays. However, her students weren’t simply allowed to pull up a Google document and type away; instead, they were asked to hand-write their essays before typing the final draft. Richard believes that handwriting work is part of a more complete writing process. Changes in handwritten drafts can also be reviewed and referenced more easily than digital documents. “When handwriting your work, you really engage a different part of your brain,” Richard said. “It’s more kinesthetic.”
Richard strongly believes that having routine is important in any classroom. Every day, her students begin with a 10-minute free writing period. During the 10-minute period, she provides a prompt for her students to reply to. “This is done to increase their writing stamina,” she said. After free-writing for 10 minutes, her class moves on to the curriculum of the day.
Recently, Richard’s seventh-graders have been investigating literary analysis. This year, her class has conducted multiple “Socratic Seminars.” A “Socratic Seminar” is a student-led academic discussion on a common text. Richard enjoys watching her students take control and come up with their own ideas and reflections in these discussions. “It is really rewarding to see the kids perform because a lot of them have anxiety about talking in a group. And they always rise to the occasion,” she smiled.
Richard’s most inspiring educational moment happened when she was volunteering for Literacy Volunteers years ago. During her time volunteering, she taught a 50-year-old man how to read for the first time. “That was awesome,” she smiled. When her student described to her how strongly his illiteracy affected his daily life, she was astounded. Richard has decided that when she retires, she wants to spend time volunteering as a literacy coach again.
Last year, Richard decided she wanted to experience teaching middle school. “I am in the mode of my life where I am embracing change. I have changed jobs a few times in the past few years,” she said. Her one-year contract at CRMS was the perfect opportunity for her to discover her passion for teaching middle school.
“I knew this was a one-year position but it allowed me to try out middle school and I love it.” In the future, Richard plans to find another more-permanent position teaching middle school. “I would love to teach middle school,” she smiled. CRMS was lucky to find such an eager, experienced and capable teacher to fill in for the year.
Camden Hills Regional High School sophomore Lucas Fischer is an intern in the superintendent's office.